What Exactly Is A Trousseau??

Intimate apparel manufacturers are capitalizing on the return of the traditional wedding — and with a more lavish flair than in the past.

Bridal peignoir sleepsets and other trousseau items are emerging as a strong trend, say manufacturers, who are aggressively going after the business with expanded trousseau collections and accessories.

The trousseau business dwindled away during the late Sixties and the Seventies, along with the other accouterments of the big wedding, although some retailers still provided consumers with a limited number of “bridal” items. Now, however, with the revival of the conventional weeding over the past few years, extensive collections and in-stock programs are being targeted directly towards brides-to-be.

Further, manufacturers point out, shiny, luxe fabrications and lavish lace lend a new air of luxury and sophistication to these offerings, taking advantage of an opportunity to cash in on a market that is seen as expanding. Today’s older and more affluent bride is willing to spend more and brings a new attitude to her nuptial wardrobe. Natori Co. offers an extensive trousseau collection consisting of slippers, lingerie cases, hosiery bags, fragrances, pillows, eye masks, jewelry rolls and garters in addition to sexy gown and robe sets.

“It’s just another way of romancing this customer,” said Josie Natori, president of Natori. “It makes it easier for her in the store.

“By presenting an entire collection, there’s an opportunity to generate multiple sales — more than just a nightgown,” she said. “A trousseau is targeted to a bride, but it can be purchased as a shower gift. It creates a great gift-giving opportunity.”

She noted that several retailers are presenting trousseau collection in their key stores, “where they have the service and a good bridal business.

“We’re focusing on an established market. It’s classic and it’s in fasion,” she said. “Now, we’re merchandising an entire concept, and in-store displays can really generate excitement in the department.”

Natori launched its bridal collection with the November market, and it accounted for more than 15 percent of the market’s booking, she said. Gowns in the collection wholesale from $50 to $100.

At Carole Hochman Designs, trousseau collections are part of a relatively new marketing concept, according to Carole Hochman, president. The firm, unlike other leading manufacturers, offers an in-stock program of bridalwear.

“Bridal business has become an entity, and it can be additional business,” Hochman said. “But it’s not going to be the biggest seller of the week, so why should a buyer clog up inventory?” Instead, the company puts samples “on-hand” in lingerie departments, and has set up an 800 hot-line phone number, she said. In the store, the customer can choose the styles she likes from samples or a catalog. Then the store can phone in the order for next-day delivery, Hochman explained.

“The retailers don’t have to put up anything,” said Neil Hochman, chairman of the Hochman firm. “The goods are available all the time, and there’s no chance of damage to the merchandise.”

Hochman noted that an in stock program like this would not be suitable for all lingerie. “Bridal is the only item a customer will wait for — because it’s for a specific date and a special occasion,” he said.

Eve Stillman introduced during the January market a 14-item bridal collection “that is very sexy,” according to Eve Stillman, president, chief designer and owner of the firm that bears her name.

“We’re going after the younger customer, whose taste level is just as high as our target customer,” Stillman said. “Traditional weddings are very strong now, which gives a boost to bridal lingerie.”

Stillman’s collection includes liquid satins, satin jacquard and satin charmeuse in polyester, as well as silks and cottons. The group wholesales from $50 to $100 for sets, while individual silk pieces range from $100 to $125.

Stillman, like her fellow executives, will market bridal fashions year-round. New collections will be shown twice a year. Bridal lingerie accounts for approximately 40 percent of business at Ellen Stein for Silvia Greenberg, according to Silvia Greenberg, a principal of the firm.

“The reason for our continued success with bridal is that we’ve done extensive research by talking to buyers and shopping the stores,” Greenberg said. “Ten years ago, trousseau sets were mostly nylon tricot, and selections were narrow. Bridal buyers were not buying fine couture lingerie in silks, linens and fine cottons.”

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